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Famous social justice activists of the 20th century

Introduction to Social Justice Activists

The 20th century was a time of great advancement in the United States, and among those who helped shape this country are the famous social justice activists of the 20th century. These brave men and women could make change happen by using their voices, bodies, or pens. They stood up for what they believed in when people disagreed with them, sometimes risking everything.

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Who are Social Justice Activists

The people on this list come from all walks of life: artists, writers, union organizers, politicians… some well-known figures, and lesser-known heroes.

This is just a sampling of Americans who impacted during the 1900s as activists, but it’s not exhaustive! There are so many more worth mentioning that these 10 can’t be all-inclusive – but we hope you’ll find something new.

In the 20th century, American activists made countless contributions to their communities and country. They also faced many challenges that they overcame with resilience. Here are just a few of them:

  • The Selma march in 1965 was led by Martin Luther King Jr., an activist who promoted nonviolent protest to achieve civil rights for African Americans. He organized boycotts and marches such as this one, leading people all over the country to fight for equality and justice.
  • In 1969, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected into congress. She became New York’s first female US representative in 1972, leaving her legacy of fighting for women’s rights behind.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer fought against segregation during the civil rights movement.
  • Ella Baker. She was born in 1903 and lived until 1986, so she was alive for a large chunk of the 20th century. Baker’s activism spanned many causes, including civil rights, women’s liberation, and black power movements.
  • Angela Davis, an African American woman who became an activist because of her own experience with racism and other injustices that she witnessed around her, such as police brutality against blacks and Latinos, to name just one example.
Famous social justice activists

The United States had many famous social justice activists in the 20th century.

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They have been instrumental in fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights, among other things. Through their advocacy, they helped shape society to be more inclusive and diverse.

The most notable individuals that come to mind are

Eleanor Roosevelt

Malcolm X

Gloria Steinem

Betty Friedan

Harvey Milk

Bayard Rustin.

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